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Nintendo says new OLED Switch has ‘improved’ Joy-Cons — but drift still persists

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Developers answer Nintendo Switch OLED questions

A photo of the new Nintendo Switch (OLED model) in white on a wooden table Photo: Nintendo

Since the Nintendo Switch’s launch 2017, there’s been one consistent problem: Joy-Con drift. It’s persisted over the years and through different upgrades and models — and it seems that Nintendo’s new OLED model will likely see the same fate.

Joy-Con drift is a problem of durability that occurs when joysticks “drift” or move without user input, causing a character to move unintentionally. Nintendo said in July that its new OLED model, released Friday, would use the same ol’ Joy-Cons as other models, but Nintendo is now clarifying that some improvements have been made to the original design.

In a lengthy interview published on Nintendo’s website, Nintendo developers Ko Shiota and Toru Yamashita spoke about the “invisible” improvements to the Joy-Con design over the years, noting that the company has continuously worked to improve Joy-Con durability.

“The parts of the Joy-Con analog sticks are not something that can be bought off the shelf but are specially designed, so we have undergone a lot of considerations to improve them,” Yamashita said. “In addition, we improved the reliability test itself, and we have continued to make changes to improve durability and clear this new test.”

Yamashita added that the improved parts are included with new consoles — including the Nintendo Switch Lite — and in both repaired and newly bought Joy-Cons (Nintendo offers repairs for drifting Joy-Cons), as well as similar adjustments in Nintendo Switch Pro controllers.

The problem, though, is that Nintendo said Joy-Con wear is “unavoidable.”

“Yes, for example car tires wear out as the car moves, as they are in constant friction with the ground to rotate,” Shiota said. “So with that same premise, we asked ourselves how we can improve durability, and not only that, but how can both operability and durability coexist? It’s something we are continuously tackling.”

Though Nintendo seems to be saying that wear on the Joy-Con controllers is inevitable, the improved Joy-Cons should, in theory, hold up to that stress for longer. Time will tell if that’s truly the case in practice.

It’s rare for Nintendo to talk about Joy-Con drift, though in this interview the developers seem to be referencing the problem without saying those specific words. This isn’t surprising, however, as Nintendo is currently facing multiple class-action lawsuits over the controllers — the last of which, filed in 2020, includes a robust technical breakdown of the Joy-Con controller and its issues.